Tokyo Celebrates 2020 Olympic Host Role, With a Few Reservations
Screams of joy and clouds of confetti filled the air at Tokyo’s Komazawa Olympic Park early yesterday as Japan’s capital won the host role for the 2020 Summer Games, its second staging of sports’ biggest global event.
“Wow!” Masayoshi Shibuya, 27, said at the park. “It’s pretty exciting that it’ll be held in Tokyo. I play basketball, but for the Olympic Games I want to watch something you don’t often get to see, like the long jump.”
Tokyo out-polled Istanbul 60-36 in a runoff vote among members of the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires over the weekend. Madrid was eliminated in the first round of voting after tying for second place with the Turkish city.
Enthusiasm among the city’s 13 million residents swelled this year as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led a government push to sell the Olympics as an engine for growth and recovery from 2011’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. While public apathy derailed an attempt to host the 2016 Games, a survey in March showed 70 percent of Tokyo’s population supporting the 2020 bid.
“I expect this to bring a ‘fair wind’ to Japan’s economy and growth,” Abe said on Fuji Television after Tokyo’s victory was announced.
“I was a Boy Scout back then, and had the opportunity to raise a national flag for one of the events. I can’t remember which it was now. I still have the memorial medallion I received.”
While Japan was able to soothe concern among IOC members that radiation from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant might endanger athletes and spectators, leaks of contaminated water and slow progress in fully containing the reactor meltdowns remain an issue for some.
“I’m excited, but also worried that the problems at Fukushima may be forgotten,” Misato Suzuki, 35, said yesterday. “You don’t really see that much progress is being made, so maybe this will bring more pressure from outside for faster action.”
Miyuki Taniguchi, 49, said she was born in the Olympic year of 1964 and is happy at the prospect of being able to see the Games in Tokyo. “I was anxious about Tokyo’s chance to win, given the nuclear issues,” she said.
The 2020 Olympics will mark Japan’s fourth time as host, after the Tokyo Summer Games in 1964 and the Winter Games in Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998.
“I threw my arms in the air in celebration,” said Yoshifumi Kuwamura, 68, a resident of Hiroshima, in Tokyo yesterday for sightseeing. “This could provide an economic boost. I’m looking forward to Japan winning gold medals in swimming and gymnastics.”
For Ryota Kawano, an 11-year-old in the park to play soccer, the Games aren’t a big deal, mostly.
“I don’t really see the point,” he said. “You need to pay to go and watch, right? I’d rather watch on TV at home with my friends. But, yeah, I’d like to see the soccer.”